Unanimous Rulings From SCOTUS On A Modern Piracy Case & Comcast Discrimination Suit
March 23, 2020
PIRACY IN THE MODERN WORLD|
The Supreme Court today unanimously ruled in favor of North Carolina in its copyright fight with a filmmaker who documented the recovery of the ship of notorious English pirate, Blackbeard. The justices upheld a lower court ruling that said the state was protected by a legal doctrine called sovereign immunity and could not be sued for copyright infringement for using filmmaker Frederick Allen’s images online. JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN wrote for the court that the company’s copyright infringement lawsuit, which she called “a modern form of piracy,” could not go forward because the Constitution generally protects states from lawsuits in federal courts.
THANK YOU, TRY AGAIN|
SCOTUS today also decided unanimously to throw out a lower court’s ruling that allowed media entrepreneur BYRON ALLEN’S $20 billion suit against Comcast to go forward. Allen has accused Comcast of discriminating against black-owned channels, but the justices’ ruling sends the case back down to the 9th Circuit to reconsider whether Allen’s claims that his failure to land a deal for Comcast to carry channels that he owned was due to racial discrimination were enough to let the case proceed.
CALL IT CRAZY|
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that states can prevent criminal defendants from pleading insanity without violating their constitutional rights. This particular case came out of Kansas where a man was sentenced to death for killing his estranged wife, two teenage daughters and his wife’s grandmother. The man, James Kraig Kahler, wanted to mount an insanity defense, but Kansas is one of four states that has eliminated a defendant’s ability to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN wrote for the court, “Kansas takes account of mental health at both trial and sentencing. It has just not adopted the particular insanity defense Kahler would like. That choice is for Kansas to make — and, if it wishes, to remake and remake again as the future unfolds.”
Caroline Fredrickson warns in The Washington Post that Trump’s Justice Department is proposing certain responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that “would be dangerous incursions on fundamental constitutional rights.” In particular, she looks at its proposals for courts, including one that would let federal court chief justice halt all proceedings during an emergency. “What is most chilling about this proposal is what it would do to habeas corpus, the constitutional guarantee that a detained person has the right to appear in court for a determination of whether his or her detention is lawful. The Justice Department language would allow a judge to order someone who had simply been arrested, but not charged or convicted, to be held until the judge determines the emergency is over.”
A NO-NO FOR POTUS|
The Associated Press reports that if PRESIDENT TRUMP wants to block critics from his personal Twitter account, then he’s going to have to take it up with SCOTUS. The 2nd Circuit rejected a request for all of the court’s active judges to reconsider a panel decision that had said Trump cannot block his critics on the platform. That 2nd Circuit panel had concluded back in July of last year that Trump violated the First Amendment whenever he blocked a critic to silence a viewpoint.